The ubiquity of plywood


We were more than a little bit excited to see that the V&A is hosting an exhibition dedicated to plywood. Not least because plywood features fairly prominently in our recent studio redesign. So, this week, Rich paid a visit, and here’s what he thought…

The Formula 2 racing car and spare plywood body (see image 1, left) parked outside the entrance to the Plywood: Material of the Modern World exhibition immediately sparked my curiosity, making me think, “who’d have thought plywood was used as a material in the manufacture of racing cars?” It’s a great move by the exhibition designers to whet your appetite before you even set foot inside.

Stepping inside, you get an immediate sense of just how ubiquitous plywood is: on a personal level, the bulk tea containers (see image 2, left) brought back memories of moving house in the 1980s when we’d fill them with our wordly goods, all wrapped up in newspaper. Then there are the chairs, some of which are primarily functional and reminded me of the ones in the dinner hall at school and in my student flat. Others are more aesthetically pleasing (see image 6, left).

From a process point of view, my inner geek was also fascinated by the plywood production process and there was just enough detail on this aspect so as not to feel stifling. See image 3 on the left (showing how a single sheet of ply is made from a tree trunk) and image 4 (a plywood chair mould). It serves an important purpose in helping you understand just how curves (for example, the casing of the sewing machine, image 7, left) are achieved.

To counterbalance this more technical aspect of the exhibition, there’s eye candy in the form of the beautiful surf and body boards, the Plymax door, made from copper-faced plywood and the Grete Jalk-designed, Danish-manufactured chair (see image 5, left).

Credit to the exhibition team for also highlighting the dark side of plywood, i.e. illegal logging activity which partially feeds the plywood supply chain.

Lastly, I’ve got to say that is a great fit in terms of sponsor, given the retailer’s focus on affordable craftsmanship.

The exhibition is open until 12 November 2017.



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